Jan 302008
Well, today is the day of the Florida semi-primary, yet another chapter of the ridiculous primary leapfrog game that occurred this year. A week from now, almost half the states in the nation will have their own, very early, primaries. The madness will not end there, of course, especially in the case of the Democrats. The long slog of the primary season will continue for some time, and it is entirely possible that the candidates will not be decided until the end of March, leaving only a paltry seven months for the parties to assassinate the character and distort the record of their candidates more than has already been accomplished in the extended primary season. I have decided not to vote in the primary for a couple of reasons that I’ll explain. If I were to vote in the primary, however, I would vote for Barack Obama or John McCain, and I’ll explain that, too.

Why won’t I vote in the primary? Well, it’s not because I can’t. Massachusetts has a semi-closed primary, so, because I am not a member of either party, I can vote in either primary. I disagree with this policy, because I feel it discourages additional parties and also third-party candidacies. Independents tend to be more moderate than party faithful; open primaries allow these voters to select centrist candidates. Were the electorate confronted with the true extremes of both parties, the enormous repulsion they felt would make a third-party candidate viable and weaken the parties. I’m also unwilling to signal tacit assent to the parties and their corrupt selection system by joining the primary. Finally, both parties only have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad candidates.

If, however, you put a gun to my head and forced me to vote in the Democratic primary, I would vote for Barack Obama, out of negative selection. None of the candidates have any real, relevant experience—Hillary’s claim to “35 years” is a bunch of crap, and at the same time, her politics-as-usual behavior in every state, in every primary, belies her claim to “change” as well. She’s a rerun of her husband, and frankly, I’ve had enough of the Clintons and the cynical politics of “triangulation”. We didn’t need four more years of Bill back in 2000, and we certainly don’t need four more years of him now. Moreover, while it may not be fair to Hillary, the fact is that for reasons entirely unrelated to her actual degree of competence she is incredibly divisive. The issues we face right now are simply too difficult for us to have our President and Congress engaged in a four-year partisan wrestling match. Hillary has neither the leadership nor the charisma that the job presently requires.

So that leaves us with Edwards and Obama. I understand that Mr. Edwards is very angry at rich people and corporations, and feels that elites are waging war on the middle class. This is probably true, but Edwards doesn’t actually supply any kind of believable answers, except perhaps waving his magic wand to create 1 million jobs. The adversarial position he adopts is not presently advantageous, in my view. We need to partner with corporations to get things done while reining them in gently, not harangue on and on about how bad they are. They are bad, and the present distribution of wealth is dangerously polarized. Edwards, however, doesn’t have any better answer for this, his touchstone issue, than the next guy.

Obama is charismatic, has the right priorities, and lacks the baggage. He doesn’t have much experience, but that’s true of all the candidates. The Republicans hate him less, which means that he has a better chance of getting Congress moving than Hillary does. Moreover, his message of change is legitimate and inspiring. The message itself is trite, of course, but it gives him a chance of getting a true mandate from the electorate, rather than the narrow, confusing results of the last two elections. That will be a much-needed tool to break the intransigence of Congress. So I would vote for him to be a candidate, if I did not hate the parties, the primary system, and the fact that I can’t find any candidate with more positives than negatives.

If you put a gun to my head and forced me to vote in the Republican primary, I would probably ask you to pull the trigger. On the other hand, I might hold my nose and vote for McCain.

Giuliani is a joke, and not even a particularly funny one. Huckabee, with his creationism and “fair tax”, is an inhabitant of some absurd fairy wonderland. And Ron Paul’s only virtue is that he is the only candidate who seems to be aware that “they hate us” more for what we have done than for who we are. I feel sorry for my uncle Sam, who is a fiscal conservative and therefore has no candidate. The whole row of them parrots the line of tax cuts and reduced spending, but nothing in the background of any of them really suggests they’ll hold that line. Hell, at the Florida debate Huckabee practically suggested starting the WPA up again.

And Romney… my God, Mitt Romney running on his record of job creation in Massachusetts is laughable. I am not intrinsically concerned by the fact that Romney’s position on every issue has changed—a considered change of opinion is every man’s right. What bothers me is that all of his new positions just happen to be more expedient for getting a Republican nomination. Changing your opinion so that you will be more popular makes you a jackass, not a philosopher. Moreover, his side-swapping has ruined all credibility with Democrats and Democratic constituencies. He’ll be trusted by neither party in Washington—a bad situation to be in with a Democratic Congress.

I disagree with John McCain on almost everything. However, I think he’s as strong on the environment as a Republican can get. He has what the Democrats lack, i.e. experience, and has a track record of working with both parties to get things done. If, as a Republican, you want anything that matches your values to emerge from a Democratic congress, then he is probably the best bet. Also, McCain has the best chance out of all the candidates to rebuild the U.S. reputation in the world. Alone of all the Republicans he could believably claim that the United States does not torture, and his word on that would be more credible than any of the Democrats either (trivia time: under which President did “extraordinary rendition” begin?). As an independent, I could tolerate him as a president. He’s certainly not a conservative’s dream candidate, but since none of these candidates have real conservative credentials, IMO he’s the least of the available evils from a Republican standpoint too. At least he would be strong on defense and capable of restoring our standing with our allies.

So those are the least bad in two fields of terrible choices. I’d be least bothered by a race between Obama and McCain, and I wouldn’t know what to do in a race between Clinton and Romney, not least because they’d have the same talking points. What the country needs now is an intelligent leader who can work with the other side of the aisle and mobilize public support for necessary changes, not a partisan hack or professional windvane.

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